United Methodists among dead in Congo flooding

Bembeueza Solonge (center, holding baby) and her family make their home under a tree for lack of shelter after flooding in Kivu, Congo. Nine people have died and thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed, including United Methodist schools and churches. Photo by Philippe Kituka Lolonga, UMNS.
Bembeueza Solonge (center, holding baby) and her family make their home under a tree for lack of shelter after flooding in Kivu, Congo. Nine people have died and thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed, including United Methodist schools and churches.

Nine people have died and thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed, including five United Methodist schools, two local churches and pastoral homes, after heavy rains and flooding in the Uvira District of Kivu.

Among the dead are a United Methodist woman from Sange United Methodist Church and two children from Kasenga United Methodist Church, said the Rev. Dumas Balaganire, Uvira district superintendent, who organized a local committee to identify the houses destroyed and number of deaths.

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A 52-year-old widow, who leaves behind 11 children, also died, along with four members of the same family from the Songo neighborhood.

Dikete Yale, coordinator of United Methodist schools in Kivu, said four primary schools (Senga, Suki, Walo and De La Montagne) and a secondary school (De La Montagne) were destroyed by flooding. He said school officials are forced to look for houses to rent for the children to finish the school year.

He sent a cry of alarm for “any person of good will to help these schools so that these children can end the school year in goodness.”

The Rev. Dumas Balaganire (left in blue), district superintendent of the Uvira District, surveys damage done to the United Methodist Women Guest House in Uvira after heavy rains and flooding. Photo by Philippe Kituka Lolonga, UMNS.

 

Two United Methodist churches in Kasenga and Kiliba also were destroyed. Balaganire said he is concerned about where church members will worship. The Kasenga church counts 345 faithful and Kiliba has an average of 285 people in attendance each Sunday.

Balaganire said the church has begun to guide some victims to neighbouring churches and schools, but the most urgent needs at the moment are to find tarpaulins, sheets, food and medicine for those displaced by the flooding.

He said there are families who are spending the night under mango trees and others sheltering in nearby churches.

“(Similar) floods took place in 1952 and had caused some material damage and loss of life. Today, 65 years after, we have just recorded further damage and loss of life,” said Kanvimvira District Chief Makomango Munyaga.

The pastoral houses at New Jerusalem and Kasenga United Methodist churches also were destroyed, and the Omba Unda Guest House of United Methodist Women in Uvira was damaged by the flooding, said Mother Rose Nabintu, manager of the guesthouse.

“I can no longer do my small businesses between Uvira and Burundi because of these floods because the road is cut between the two countries at the border,” she said.

Kingombe Kazamwali, lay chief of the Uvira District, said that in addition to the deaths and material damage, there are many wounded.  

“Among the wounded we have the lay head of the Makobola (United Methodist) Church with all his family who are interned at the Makobola hospital, and two Methodist women from Kasenga who are attending the care at Uvira Methodist Hospital.”

East Congo Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda has been sympathetic to all the victims of this calamity and has appealed to people of good will to assist the survivors.

Kituka Lolonga is a communicator in the Kivu Conference. News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests. 

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